U.S. farmers rank as the most trusted members of the supply chain when it comes to ensuring its safety, taking the top spot in 78 percent of consumer responses, according to new research by the United Soybean Board. The results of the consumer survey sheds a light on the needs and perceptions of people nationwide about their food supply. Farmers’ dependability in regard to nourishing the world has not gone unnoticed.
“As the organization representing soy — the second largest crop grown on U.S. soil, one of the only widely available complete plant proteins and the most widely used edible oil in the country — we knew it was vital to understand the values of the very people who purchase the products our farmers grow,” said Mace Thornton, USB vice president of communications and marketing strategy. “The results not only reinforced the importance of current sustainability strategies our farmer-leaders put in place, but also revealed some key perceptions and desires among consumers that will help guide the way we communicate and engage on the benefits of sustainable U.S.-grown soy.”
Here are some key takeaways:
- The vast majority of consumers, 79 percent, have a very/somewhat positive view of U.S. farmers who grow crops, including soybeans.
- Consumers are united in their support for domestic agriculture, with 70 percent saying it’s somewhat/very important to purchase food made with U.S.-grown crops.
- Soy is seen as healthy (60 percent) or neutral (26 percent) by most consumers, but less than half (44 percent) are aware that the soybeans used to make their favorite products are grown sustainably.
- The good news is that education seems to be valuable, as two-thirds (66 percent) of consumers felt more positive about soy protein and soybean oil as an ingredient in many food products after reading about the sustainability of soybeans.
With heightened demand for both nutritious and sustainable ingredients, paired with a growing interest in plant-based proteins, it seems to already be resonating with consumers that soy protein is unique from most other plant-based protein sources. What sets it apart is its high-quality “complete” protein, comparable to the protein found in meat, poultry and seafood. The soy checkoff continues to focus on ensuring that all forms of U.S. protein, whether animal- or plant-based, remain the preferred global choice to meet future demand and nutritional requirements of a growing population.
The way in which food is grown also makes an impact on food-purchasing decisions. The conversation about soy sustainability is an area of opportunity, as consumers are less familiar with it but rank it high in importance. This makes it a key area for the checkoff to educate, with high potential for positive impacts on consumer perceptions.
“This data made clear just how essential it will be to increase awareness that U.S. soybeans are sustainably grown,” noted David Iverson, USB Sustainability Target Area coordinator and soybean farmer from South Dakota. “We have successfully reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 38 percent per metric ton since 1980 but recognize that our contribution cannot stop there. We employ new production practices to continuously advance sustainability efforts, with a goal of growing 70 percent more food by 2050 to feed our rising population, expected to increase by 2 billion people over the next 30 years.”